All posts by Judith Greenaway

Judith is a Sydney theatre worker who was ‘born in a trunk’. With a lifelong passion for all performing arts, she has turned her hand to many jobs in film, TV and live theatre. Ranging from earning pocket money for trimming the back legs off tables, so they sat flat on raked stages to owning her own touring theatre company. A lighting designer by trade, Judith experiences performances with a technical eye and an understanding of the jobbing actor and the theatrical bedrock which supports them.

MIRACLE CITY @ THE STUDIO, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

MIRACLE CITY was first produced in Sydney in 1996 and after brief, bright flame of 4 weeks flickered out as the creative forces behind it moved on. Written by the late Nick Enright with music from Max Lambert (who is Musical Director for this production), the original director was Gale Edwards. Did I see Edwards and original cast member Genevieve Lemon in the crowd tonight? This production was  spoken of in legendary terms yet it was interesting to note there were plenty of excitable tweets coming from opening night audience members repeating the precept that MIRACLE CITY was previously ‘undiscovered’.

Offering this production up for fresh discovery is Darren Yap, directing again after a sell-out season at Hayes Theatre in October 2014. He worked as Enright’s assistant in 1997 when a modified version was produced for WAAPA.

Credibility galore so far. Add to this line-up, a stellar cast, high production values, uniform excellence in the voices and you have a show which is sure to please.

It is the 1990s at the height of the Televangelist craze that will come crashing down as scandals and swindles come to light. MIRACLE CITY plays out in real time as the Truswells, a family of faith, prepare and present their live-to-air “Ministry of Miracles”. Father Ricky, Mother Lora Lee, 16 year old daughter Loretta and younger son Ricky-Bob are excited that prestigious pastor Millard Sizemore is their guest on today’s show. Continue reading MIRACLE CITY @ THE STUDIO, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

The Natural Conservatorium for Wise Women @ Old 505

Lean and slippered. The stained figure before us is no hothouse creation. He is of the earth. His modesty is protected by his natural fibre woollen longjohns but he is white faced and stripped of insignia and identifiers. Perceptually naked as the ball root of the plant he holds.

That little tree. In his eye … a son. An object to be threatened into growth when it takes its natural place in a hole of the creature’s digging.

Clockfire Theatre Company will take this being on a journey to a place where the earthen tear he has dug, with his father and his father’s father and back beyond, is no longer owned by him. And in that place, he will beg.

THE NATURAL CONSERVATORIUM FOR WISE WOMEN is a work of power about power: the taking of it, the nature of reclaiming it and the powerlessness of those from whom it is wrenched or cajoled. Continue reading The Natural Conservatorium for Wise Women @ Old 505

THE GLOVEMAN @ BLOOD MOON THEATRE

THE GLOVEMAN which is currently playing at Blood Moon Theatre is bookended by he song ‘Rain’ from Dragon’s ‘Cuts from Tough Times’ album. The characters in the play are from hard times, the coal dust frosting the pub’s pint glasses and deaths from black lung touching the whole town. But there is a bright spot. One of their own has been awarded the Golden Gloves award for being a champion goalkeeper, the second local to do so.

THE GLOVEMAN is not, however, a play which is about success. Rather, it explores temptation and greed and manipulation. It is about failure. The human failure of innocents in the face of insatiable and incultivated dishonesty.

Emerging playwright Chris Naylor, in collaboration with Director Michael Block, have created a play that places corruption in the least venial of places. A Northern English industrial town with a lower division soccer club.

Rising star gloveman or keeper, Royce is about to be interviewed for the paper about his win and his sister Edith and old teammate Col are on hand to support him. His interview gets out of hand and the paper prints a story with a whiff of “suspicious score lines and betting”. As things snowball, Clive, that first recipient of the award, is keen to keep his credibility and scorecard in the face of this young pup. Nothing will be helped by the arrival of HUGH a manipulative match fixer who has few morals and a devious agenda. Continue reading THE GLOVEMAN @ BLOOD MOON THEATRE

SMASH HITS AND STEREOTYPES @ THE ACTORS PULSE

One of the most moving songs in SMASH HITS AND STEREOTYPES is actually about an imminent death. Considering this is a young cast, a freshly created work and the story of a 21st birthday it really made me think. Such an entertaining show, vibrant, shiny and new, energetic and driven, deserves a life.

Two characters arrive alone on stage with love on their mind. A group of friends have hired a beach house to celebrate a Spring birthday and Olivia and Bud are the early birds who will get the biggest bedroom. As the other friends arrive the good times are set to roll until tensions surface as one of the relationships comes under threat from an interloper. Alliances will be tested and each of the friends will change and grow over the next 2 hours.

SMASH HITS AND STEREOTYPES has a solid story and characters to fall in love with, and yet is disarmingly thoughtful and reflective. There is a Cinema vs Music battle that we have all had at a drunken student party which has been moulded into a neat song that puts the intelligence of this work on show. Written by Coco Grainger and Ludwig Van Distortion (yes really!) it is professional and polished. With some really well written comic lines! I liked “bedsprings to test”. Such an archaic reference but what really made me laugh was “Hi Sis, I was just about to toke up!”

Their publicity blurb suggests that the show is a kind of anti-musical “Burn down Broadway” and that is apparent in the music. The musician character Ray sings of “discordant, unusual instruments” and there is mention of “dissonant pauses” and those are there for sure. Add to that an audacious slow and sad opening number after interval and the score is well and truly lifted away from the formulaic. Continue reading SMASH HITS AND STEREOTYPES @ THE ACTORS PULSE

MIRROR : A CELEBRATION OF SELFHOOD @ THE SYDNEY FRINGE

 

Production photography by Tyler Grace Photography.

Every last instinct is screaming at me. Plead.

Beg even. Make them go.

So here it is… I don’t ask much of you.

Please go and see MIRROR at the Sydney Fringe. I know it’s at 6 p.m. … but take the day off. It’ll be worth it.

Please, please don’t let this artist and his 5 alternate selves have to present this joyous, gentle and loving production to an audience of six, plus me, ever again. Seriously, it is such engaging, entertaining work I can’t bear the thought of people missing out on it. Continue reading MIRROR : A CELEBRATION OF SELFHOOD @ THE SYDNEY FRINGE

WHERE BE THE WINGED APES? @ ERSKINEVILLE TOWN HALL

Hell on wheels, Emma O’Sullivan is hell bent on running hell for leather, um hell for sequins, into hellfire.  And it’s a damned (get it?) good thing that she is a better pun writer than me.  She has managed to create a hellava show (somebody stop me!) out of nothing.  Bugger all.  Except a disco sequined onesie and a vision of hell that doesn’t live up to any of the Catholic hype.

Emma has been listening to various language versions of a particularly noxious bossa nova jazz standard for 6 hours. We join her in the waiting room of Hell.  Pre-hell?  Nice outfit she died in… good lookin’ corpse, girl!  Night out pissed was it?  Pretty bored with the waiting gig, she now has an audience and being somewhat of a go-getter she decides to knock up Satan and enquire when the party of reprobates and sinners is going to get started.  

What follows in an hour of astonishingly skilled performance.  The character is detailed and has a very well written arc to follow, from enthusiastic newhellbie to power hungry usurper.  O’Sullivan not only inhabits the character but the small space as well.  She wanders and mingles, even extending to the very, very peculiar and ineffectual seduction of a door … complete with jamb.   Continue reading WHERE BE THE WINGED APES? @ ERSKINEVILLE TOWN HALL

BACKSTREET DIAMOND : FRINGE CABARET AT ITS BEST

What fun! BACKSEAT DIAMOND is exactly what I need in a Fringe Cabaret. Great characters, lots of laughs, fine singing and a conspiracy to boot! The brain child of Megan Kozak, the neatly written show has some terrific song choices. Lots of Motown and some soft rock, toe tappers and hands-in-the-air hits to the just sit back and enjoy soulful classics.

Beginning with ‘Aint No Mountain High Enough’ after a beehived, sexy split spangly dressed diva arrives to take her place at the back of the tiny stage. All the way at the back? At a lonely rear mic behind the 2 lead mics. Odd. And when the song starts there is something missing… the lyrics. Lovely orchestration by Mark ( Mark Chamberlain) at the keyboard but all we hear are the la la backing sounds. Something’s not right.

But not to worry, Mary is a charge taker. Since she was a young girl singing into her hairbrush she has yearned for this moment and with a “You don’t mind do you?” to the audience she launches in! Continue reading BACKSTREET DIAMOND : FRINGE CABARET AT ITS BEST

MONGREL MOUTH’S ‘UNDERTAKING’ : IMMERSIVE THEATRE AT ITS MOST QUIRKY

“In my own life I would have fucken pushed him!” It was like Lord of the Flies there at the end! Yet, eavesdropping in the lift on the way out, I also heard … “Guys. OMG we just let it happen!.’

Mongrel Mouth Theatre Company creates immersive theatre and they are damned good at it. UNDERTAKING is not their usual richly detailed and finely written work though. It is different: fringier; grungier; more explosive.

In previous productions one’s experience might have been narrative and intellectual. This is much more visceral. Not that it’s mindless or unchallenging; our host describes the show as “clever and curious”. It’s not scary either … until you get out and have to face what you have learned about yourself. Or others… Continue reading MONGREL MOUTH’S ‘UNDERTAKING’ : IMMERSIVE THEATRE AT ITS MOST QUIRKY

MEDIOCHRE PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS NICOLE PLUSS’ ‘RIPE’

 

It’s true. I do sometimes overthink stuff. Particularly about performance and theatre and the purpose and the possibilities and the methods and the …. you know. But since the death of Sir Peter Hall I have been craving words. Just words. Linguistic simplicity chosen with care and expressed without accessories. Not necessarily full ‘white room’ but close. Nor anything grandiose or intellectual but minimal, relevant, characterful dialogue that draws or, preferably, pulls in an audience.

I’ve come close, especially during the Sydney Fringe. Minimalism is how the Fringe rolls after all but tonight I found it. RIPE, presented by Mediochre Productions,  has scratched and soothed that itchy intellectual desire. And it took me by surprise, neatly hidden away in an abandoned office up on a third floor overlooking roadworks at the Fringe Festival Hub.

RIPE is a burst of skyrocket with a roman candle of a script, sparkler direction and cracker performances. Continue reading MEDIOCHRE PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS NICOLE PLUSS’ ‘RIPE’

WAYNE TUNKS’ NEW PLAY ‘DIVA WARS’ @ THE NEW THEATRE

It’s such a lovely theatre time in Sydney in September. The weather is lovely and there is a plethora of lovely, reasonably priced shows as part of the Sydney Fringe. Doubly lovelerly, there is always something gay to be seen. The Queer Fringe, sequined blessings on the New Theatre for their stewardship, showcases community centred work.

And what do we get as part of the Queer Fringe? In the case of DIVA WARS, we get authenticity. There are seven men on stage here. Lovely looking each, I might say, and each holds dearly to a Diva who got them through … music to cry to, trial by media to find strength in and, not forgetting, style to emulate. Lemonade Salvation if you will. They sometimes fight among each other in a surprisingly aggressive laddish way, sometimes they speak directly to us but any didacticism is mitigated by vignettes which tell a story which brings all the characters together. And an inventive bit of audience participation in the middle. It’s pretty obvious that the on-stage characters are not the only Diva devotees. Continue reading WAYNE TUNKS’ NEW PLAY ‘DIVA WARS’ @ THE NEW THEATRE

SYDNEY FRINGE : CHARLOTTE JOSEPHINE’S ‘BITCH BOXER’

BITCH BOXER played as part of the Sydney Fringe and was performed in one of the tiniest rooms of the Erskineville Town Hall.

The stage is not much bigger than a boxing ring, the athlete is within touching distance… it’s close enough to see the scars.

Not the broken nose or cut eye of a traditional boxer but the insidious psyche-rending damage of gender, class and loss. Ambition and talent will get Chloe into contention but her primacy will depend entirely on well scabbed emotional hurts.

Chloe is 21. She is a female boxer who is up for the London Olympic Women’s Boxing Team. She lives in Leytonstone, spitting distance from the proposed venue. Her dad, an ex-boxer himself, has channelled her aggression at the departure of her mother into the sport. And there is a love interest who makes her feel soft and safe despite herself. Rounds are won but love, familial and romantic, might be the sucker punch that sends her plans to the mat. Continue reading SYDNEY FRINGE : CHARLOTTE JOSEPHINE’S ‘BITCH BOXER’

HUNTER’S HILL THEATRE PRESENTS ‘A LETTER FROM THE GENERAL’

 

Hunters Hill Theatre’s A LETTER FROM THE GENERAL is everything you want in a night out at a community theatre. An entertaining show with committed performances, chatty and engaged audience members, friendly and professional front of house staff and as a bonus … really, really good coffee.

The play opens on a bamboo lined set and with the insect cacophony of the audio track we are obviously somewhere tropical. An infectiously enthusiastic young nun bustles in searching for an implement to fix the wire of the chicken coop. In her noisy and excitable poking around, she is obviously disturbing an older, more sombre Sister who is sitting at the desk focused on cataloguing some text books.

It is the 1950s in a nameless country as Chinese communism assumes political power and begins to oust foreigners. The nunnery is part of what used to be a mission school and child refuge. Now there are only five Sisters left and their priest has been arrested and tortured. The local British representative is closing up his consulate and heading out of the country too. Continue reading HUNTER’S HILL THEATRE PRESENTS ‘A LETTER FROM THE GENERAL’

MOTH : FRAGILE ADOLESCENT LIVES EXPOSED IN DECLAN GREENE’S NEW PLAY

 

Production photography by Rupert Reid Photography.

Darkness edges the two figures who appear before us. The shadowy stage lights have crept up to wash the tiny downstage area with a yellow tinged late afternoon falling. They are hard to make out these two schoolkids with their bored skatepark slouching. The effort of peering seems to blur them more.

They will pull us, disturbed and fearful for them, into their fragile, adolescent lives in ninety minutes of engrossing theatre yet the playwright, director and cast of MOTH (atyp) conspire to be unreliable narrators. Claryssa and Sebastian will never really take shape. They will flutter just beyond our understanding and will beat their wings wildly to warn us away. At the end of the play, as these creations melt back into darkness and we emerge blinking into the light, we are slow and panicky in our anxiety for the young people around us and the world we are leaving them. Continue reading MOTH : FRAGILE ADOLESCENT LIVES EXPOSED IN DECLAN GREENE’S NEW PLAY

SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE : LITTLE TRIANGLE PRESENT A MEMORABLE PRODUCTION

“Order. Design. Composition. Balance. Light. … Harmony.”

The two year process has not been easy. Relationships are strained and the pinpoint vision of the eponymous artist has blurred. Yet he creates, before our eyes, his masterpiece. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte arrives fully realised as the first act finale of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.

When I saw the original version on Broadway in 1984 my heart stopped at this sequence. Georges Seurat’s painting flew in as a scrim to be magically framed by staging. It was breathtaking and transformative. I’m not the only one who reveres the show either. A quick search on YouTube shows how many people still engage with and comment on those grainy videos of the original.

So, how do you reinvent a legend? If Sondheim can seamlessly transport one art form to another then surely an up-and-coming Theatre Company like Little Triangle can mount a fully realised reimagining even on an odd shaped stage in a revamped military shed on reclaimed swampland with a rich indigenous and community heritage as part of the Sydney Fringe. They sure can! And the painting is created with as much power and integrity as that seminal production.

Director, Alexander Andrews and Musical Director Conrad Hamill have made new art from old. They have a cohesive vision which is evident in every moment of this fine production. This is an unpretentious, unfussy, accessible, skilled and joyful rendering of a revered work. With love at its heart. Continue reading SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE : LITTLE TRIANGLE PRESENT A MEMORABLE PRODUCTION

SISTERHOOD : PART OF QUEER SCREEN FILM FEST 2017

SISTERHOOD is a wonderful inclusion in QUEER SCREEN FILM FEST 2017.  The film is soulful and uplifting despite the pathos of the mystery at its heart.  And it has superbly realised relationships to touch the heart of any woman who has had a best female friend.  It was the only Macau film at the inaugural Macau International Film Festival in December 2016, where it won two awards including the “Eye of the Audience” award.

We meet Sei.  In her late thirties, she runs a Taiwan Guest House with her husband, Chen.  She has fallen again and her doctor is tired of treating injuries caused by her alcoholism.  “Should I give up drinking?”  Sei asks of her husband.  “It’d do you good but I want you to be happy.”  There is unresolved grief on both faces.   

A public notice in the paper will lead Sei back to Macau where, 15 years ago, she applied for a job at a massage parlour.  Seen in flashback with a younger cast, Sei’s past will collide with a post-handover Macau.  Her story, both the exuberantly hopeful younger self and the remote, self-medicated adult, will explicate a sisterhood of four best friends. Continue reading SISTERHOOD : PART OF QUEER SCREEN FILM FEST 2017

5TH QUEER SCREEN FILM FEST 19 – 24 SEPTEMBER 2017

The QUEER SCREEN FILM FESTIVAL lineup has been announced and it will feature 20 films from four continents, including 16 Australian premieres, puts the diversity of LGBTIQ experience and Queer strength on screen in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

There are screenings at the Mt Vic Flicks, Event Cinemas and thanks to a partnership with City of Sydney, Queer Screen Film Fest will also present three free film events for the whole community.

There is an outdoor family screening of Moana at Sydney Park, a seniors (and friends) viewing of the moving documentary The Lavender Scare, complete with afternoon tea. In addition there is a youth event featuring Behind The Curtain: Todrick Hall, a high energy documentary following the titular YouTube and Rupaul’s Drag Race sensation.

“Being able to give back and reach out to the community is something Queer Screen views as vitally important, and through our strong relationship with City of Sydney we are again able to provide free entertainment that focuses on three pillars of the LGBTIQ community: families, seniors and youth” says Festival Director, Lisa Rose. Continue reading 5TH QUEER SCREEN FILM FEST 19 – 24 SEPTEMBER 2017

SUDS GOES A WANDERING WITH ‘IN TWO CIRCLES’

So their ceiling fell in. But that is not going to stop the oldest theatre company in Australia from getting a show on! Would a destroyed venue have stopped alumni like Kip or Kit or, wayback, Clive and Germaine? Not likely.

Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS), has been creating performance for nearly 130 years. So, during their displacement from the Cellar Theatre, they have taken root in the Common Room plus they have branched out into the wilds of Annandale. IN TWO CIRCLES is SUDS’ immersive theatre experience and it begins at the Annandale pub.

We meet Prof Gerald who is obviously under pressure and who has a theory about a time and place shift. In his halting and nervous way he explains that there has been a series of disappeared persons over 100 years in the Herald obituary sections. The latest is someone he knows.

Esse appears to be one of the disappeared. Gerald has sent a call to arms on Reddit and here we are. The ten of us will join with his colleague Michael to make a dozen warriors. We bond as we travel though lanes and backstreets and later when I find myself confronted with a scary run-in with ‘The Patron’ I can grab a young man’s shirt and request his assistance. Enjoyed that may be a bit too much. Moving on.

Through the portal, armed with a recent picture of Esse we go. We enter … The Vale!!! (It’s more ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ than Littlefinger territory.)

Immersive theatre is all the rage, from escape rooms to takeovers of historic buildings. And each, the good ones anyway, has a distinct story, genre, cast of characters and raison d’etre. IN TWO CIRCLES is detailed, well created, immaculately conceptualised and there must be an English Major there somewhere because it is beautifully plotted and, in a few places, scripted. Not to mention the terrific improvisational talent of the performers.

The space has detail enough to keep participants wandering and questing without either real world intrusion or any claustrophobia. The intent of the props and sets are conducive to detective work, whether you are a brooding thinker looking for signs or an action seeker searching for events.

The fairly modern costuming does the trick to support the artist’s character but the real delight is in the makeup. Apart from highly visible audience members, such as an elder citizen with grey hair and a notebook, it would be hard to recognise those from whom information might be elicited. That’s where the makeup empowers a participant. It clues one in to the internal struggle and therefore what can be believed. It’s really clever!

Obviously an audience requires some kind of herding toward a conclusion, a solution, an experiential climax. In this production, some simple, effective lighting and audio goes a long way toward that but shepherding inevitably falls to the cast. The immersion is about 50 minutes and not one of those actors dropped character or showed any sign of fatigue, even after a 4 show day. Each character has some kind of arc, can answer backstory questions and yet travel the mystery forward.

There is something for everyone in IN TWO CIRCLES. SUDS have taken their adverse architectural situation by the orbs and held a contorted mirror up to an alternate reality. Great concept, great fun it continues until 12th August.

BROOKE ROBINSON’S ‘TELESCOPE’ @ THE OLD FITZ

TELESCOPE is bent over laughing entertainment. Part of Red Line Productions THE NEW FITZ, a season of ten Australian writers, this show is wonderfully, obliquely … silly. In fact, histrionic, hilarious, high spirited, it is an exercise in advanced silliness. With a whole heap of my viewing-year-so-far bests!

Beginning with best use of an antennae to open a show. Daniel is on the lookout for aliens when we meet him as we enter the theatre. He and his transistor and his aerial are perched on a table centre stage. There is great deal of leaping and arm raising and getting of mixed signals. (Terrific audio cues btw) until his parents arrive.

Mum and Dad get my best in show for most disengaged parents! Only slightly interested in anyone else’s agenda, this absurdly dysfunctional family is completed by the arrival of Lenny. An expert non-listener, she is driven to try and save the family home from the Government’s greedy claws as it buys up the Sydney suburb. Their little home and those around it are the perfect place for a radio telescope and there are big ass bucks to made by selling up and heading out. Continue reading BROOKE ROBINSON’S ‘TELESCOPE’ @ THE OLD FITZ

JANE BODIE’S ‘FOURPLAY’ @ THE BLOOD MOON THEATRE

There really are not enough small spaces around Sydney where emerging theatre companies can get a show up with their own resources and backing. Blood Moon Theatre is one that really supports independent theatre by its price structure and having some lighting and sound infrastructure. Phable Productions/ Marcia Lemm chose this theatre for their short season of FOURPLAY (2000) by Australian playwright Jane Bodie.

The opening of FOURPLAY, as written, sees the four characters listing the names of past lovers and relationships before the word ‘you’. This production wisely shortened that to the one word for each of the characters before moving on. We meet Alice (Marcia Lemm) and Tom (Jack Berry) rehearsing lines for a different play. He is an actor and she is an ex-actress, now a care-worker. They are evidently in a relationship but appear combative. Next we see Tom rehearsing with Natasha (Chantelle Von Appen) and there appears to be a different kind of tension. As the issues in Tom and Alice’s relationship worsen, Alice meets Jack (Evan Piefke). Jack is also a care-worker for the same client and their paths cross at the beginning and end of shifts. Jack appears very odd and Alice takes some time to choose to engage with him.

There are some very interesting notes in the Bodie’s script about which characters will engage with whom. About focus and perspective and eye contact and choices about naturalism in production with scope for non-naturalistic interpretations. This production chose a naturalistic physical setting with the theatre in an usual configuration. Sofa and tables on the floor as well as using the small stage, with the use of practical lamps and an overhead bulb to indicate place. It must have cost them a lot of seats but served the production well. Continue reading JANE BODIE’S ‘FOURPLAY’ @ THE BLOOD MOON THEATRE

THEATRE ON CHESTER PRESENTS ‘THE THIRTY NINE STEPS’

THE 39 STEPS at the Theatre on Chester, Epping is a crackerjack production with a cracking good performance at its centre. It’s hilarious, cleverly conceived, fast paced and, I do believe, the most fun I have ever had in the suburbs on a Friday night.

Richard Hannay is jaded, filled with ennui and world weary after his travels. With a wink to the audience, he decides to take in a night at the theatre … it’s an “antidote to boredom” right? He will meet a mysterious veiled woman and being bored will no longer be his problem as he finds himself accused of her murder. He is suddenly on a train to the Scottish Highlands following the clues which the aforementioned, now deceased Annabella Schmidt has intimated!

THE 39 STEPS is an Olivier, Drama Desk and Tony award winner. It is a rollicking show, which takes the Hitchcock classic film and puts it on stage with only four cast members. Owing a great deal to BULLSHOT CRUMMOND, the riotous production is alive with Hitchcockian allusions, some wonderful sight gags and jokes ranging from groaners to rapid fire puns. Continue reading THEATRE ON CHESTER PRESENTS ‘THE THIRTY NINE STEPS’

DRY LAND @ KINGS CROSS THEATRE

Production photos by Marnya Rothe.

There has been and after Opening Night tonight, there will continue to be , a great deal of public and media discussion about the violence of one scene of Ruby Rae Spiegel’s DRY LAND playing at Kings Cross Theatre. I am not the person who will add much to the specifics of that because, frankly, I didn’t watch. I cowered away from it, tried not to listen and just waited for it to end. And that is the very reason why artistic debate about a topic such as medication abortion requires skillful and respectful hands. Realism is vital. This story is not clinical it must not be whitewashed or sterilised.

Outhouse Theatre Company and Mad March Hare Theatre Company are those hands.

DRY LAND introduces us to Ester and Amy. Amy is forceful and solid. And pregnant. Ester greatly hero worships her and seems slightly overawed by being asked to be the co-conspirator in her attempts to induce a miscarriage … by being punched in the stomach. The girls are swimmers. The place is the white tiled dressing sheds.

Amy’s best friend is actually Reba and Amy is not above using vague Reba allusions in manipulating Ester’s participation. Ester’s evident guilessness belies a darkness that will show itself to a stranger, Victor when their parents arrange for her to stay at his dorm. She is at his college for a disenfranchising tryout for a swim scholarship. Amy seems little interested in a real friendship with Ester however the physical intervention unsuccessful, there must be collusion to purchase the medications.

This is a polished, professional production that wears its heart on its sleeve. Sarah Rae Anne Meacham gives us an Ester who grows and changes throughout the play as she wrestles with demons that have tortured her in the past. It’s a subtle performance with undercurrents that smack head on into the undertow of Patricia Pemberton’s Amy. Dominant, changeable and until the end unknowable, Pemberton pulls off the difficult trick of appearing one thing while being described as another. And she does this without conflict or loss of believability.

The two women have a rapport that elevates the audience’s involvement in their circumstances. It is also important to mention that their control over the challenging physicality of the abortion scene is vital for the credibility of the play’s intention.

They have fine support in Charles Upton who is really terrific as Victor, a young man out of his depth with college life and family complications. And he is so funny. That’s what is so enriching about Ruby Rae Spiegel’s script; it has such elevating, comic, character based moments despite the gravity of its themes. Michelle Ny as Reba personifies one of those themes. She is travelling through adolescence with a flighty, gossipy, self-obsession that rings wonderfully true. One can see why Amy kept Reba out of her plans.

Also in fine support are the production and creative crew. The set ( Isabel Hudson) is simple, white tiles and two long dark wood benches. But in those scene changes when the lights (Liam O’Keefe) morph from glaring fluorescent to underwater aquas and bluey-greens and the underwater echo and spill of the audio track ( Ben Pierpoint) blurs the senses … then … those benches look like the black line on the bottom of a pool. The senses are water- dulled and the audience has time to think and breathe before the scene which will take our breath from us.

It is very important that you take the trigger warnings in all of the publicity about this show seriously. It is graphic, inescapable. I thought I would be fine. A life in the theatre has inured me to stage blood, I recently worked on the Sydney season of 1984 without incident. But I couldn’t watch and knew beforehand that would probably be so. What I didn’t know is that the scene afterwards, where the bloody mess is cleaned with custodial indifference would set me off. Trouble controlling my nausea then for reasons that require investigation.

Without irony I would suggest that DRY LAND is about choice and this Australian premiere production is an artistic contributor to the debate about medicinal abortion because it is not sterile, logical or singly experienced. Surely, if men and women of childbearing age are to speak of such things then understanding the visceral, bloody, realities can only inform choices.

DRY LAND plays at the Kings Cross Theatre until 19 August.

 

BONDI FEAST : THE CHOO CHOO TROUPE PRESENTS LOST LOST CABARET @ THE BONDI PAV

The Lost Lost Cabaret

The Choo Choo Troupe is obviously a force for good.  They describe themselves on their website as “ a collective of Sydney & Melbourne based performers who are tied together by an innate desire to act like idiots.”  And the reality is, you can’t be an idiot on your own… that’s just weird.  There is safety in numbers.

THE LOST LOST CABARET was the final event of the BONDI FEAST and it is apparently the little sister to London’s The Lost Cabaret, and misguided brother to Melbourne’s The Lost Lost Lost Cabaret.  According to their blurb ….  Throughout 2016, The Lost Lost Cabaret was a regular show at Glebe’s now defunct Mr. Falcon’s.  And now it has returned!  For one night only!  At Bondi Feast!  

Last night the six artists who were performing were squeezed into the Mini Theatre with its miniscule stage and very few seats..  It’s a chance to see these performers up close and personal  and the use of small venues is just one of the attractions of BONDI FEAST programming.  You also get to put Sold Out your next gig.  On this occasion, you can put Sold Out REaaaaly REaaaaly Early!

One of the other advantages is that you have a supportive space to try out your material, since another reality is that you simply don’t know if your gear works until you stand up.  “I must have you warmed up by now,” says one artist when a clap-desirous pun just lies there.  There was a fair amount of trying out and there were some lie-there gags.  All terrific learning material for sure in a Choo Choo safe environment.

The 2 MCs for the evening, Bobbie and Wanda (Debbie Zukerman and Alicia Gonzalez) arrived with some physical comedy which was supported by preparation and personality.  But the problems that all would have with the intimacy of the venue, only having the one gig with little preparation time in the space, and the tyranny of props and costumes that won’t behave,  also arrived with these characters.  They had fun mining the comic possibilities of that well-trod stand-up fare: the embarrassment of incompetence.

They were ably supported by Steve on the Keys!  His work was top notch, he was engaged, responsive, creative and supportive. The other 3 members of last night’s troupe were an elderly citizen who reads faxed hands … probably to supplement her pension, a Lorca inspired sad sack in a really stunning  costume and a doctor armed with a stethoscope to read what is in random audience members heads and play it out imaginatively on set.  

There was a bit where members of the public were let loose with surgical tongs, some gross-out stuff, some female-centric gags, even a lesbian sub-plot!  The audience laughed and volunteered and congratulated them afterwards and the Choo Choo Troupe rose again to inspire new idiots in the nicest possible way.    

 

BONDI FEAST : CLARA CUPCAKES : THE WORST @ THE LITTLE THEATRE, BONDI PAVILION

CLARA CUPCAKES: THE WORST is a wonderful production. When we first meet our player/character, we do wonder though, will the wonder she sees around her keep us engaged for the length of our time together. Wonder on, till truth make all things plain. Yep, this is a Shakespearean clown snuggled away in a tiny theatre at the tail end of the Bondi Feast.

Clara Cupcakes invented a game in 2001. The year of Enron and the ipod. A bad game. THE WORST. This Dire Straits-ish, blocky, animated quest was essentially unplayable. Until now.

On the small stage is an octopus. She is purple and she is excitable. She is the inheritor of Puck and Bottom and a bit of Dogberry with the distinct whiff of Gypsy Rose Lee and Ethel Merman. Not to mention Siri beatboxing… just ask her … “I could do this all day!” And she is our hero. She will play the game and interact with the graphics in an attempt to re-enter the undersea castle from which she has been rudely ejected like the last cartridge of a Nintendo 64. Continue reading BONDI FEAST : CLARA CUPCAKES : THE WORST @ THE LITTLE THEATRE, BONDI PAVILION

BONDI FEAST : the ethics of paediatric haircut for long hair

It was a bit hairy there for a few minutes. I thought a scuffle was going to break out for sure. Love a tough audience but I reckon there was going to be some biffo after the show. Ires were raised and conciliation was not on the agenda when such a divisive topic was let off the chain at the Bondi Feast.

As for me, I’m a barber’s daughter from the dark days when kids did what their parents wanted, where infant autonomy did not exist and no-one had the temerity to juxtapose consent and abuse. So I am seriously torn.

Well … not seriously. None of this is serious. It’s a fun, new Australian work called the ethics of paediatric haircut for long hair. Seriously!

The debate occurs between a scholarly, academic, clinically precise doctor in surgical scrubs and a scrubber hairdresser who specialises in cutting kids hair. The audience launches in and the debate is hijacked by the choir of some medical product from ProsiPharm, trying to further their own agenda.

The show is the brainchild of Isobel Yeap (the doc) and Antoinette Barbouttis and Yeap plays the doctor giving the lecture with Elysia Boyd as Paloma Orange, her antagonist. I especially liked the Doctor character who is, initially, logical and precise and authoritative. As the show progresses her warmth and passion engage the audience and she has a lovely little monologue which really drea me in.

The Paloma Orange character however was abrasive, vicious, snide, simplistic, sneering and arrogant – well delivered.

This was a short, wry, irony- heavy morsel. Nothing serious for sure … despite the interjections of some elements of the audience. Tasty!

the ethics of paediatric haircut for long hair plays again at the Bondi Pavilion Friday at 9:30pm.

 

BONDI FEAST : CONFIDENTIAL MEMO RE EXCLUSION ZONE : A WALKING TOUR

CONFIDENTIAL MEMO

To: Editor, Sydney Arts Guide

From : Judith Greenaway

RE: Exclusion Zone: A Walking Tour

Hi David,

Just a quick, late night note about that little mission you sent me on to see Exclusion Zone: A Walking Tour at the Bondi Feast.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to send anything through about the show. We had to sign a damned Non-Disclosure Agreement. Along with a Liability Waiver I might add.

But, just between us, I reckon you should really check it out. The guy, Caleb Lewis, I think it is, is an absolute nutter. It’s just obvious from the time he tells you that Euclidian mathematics and Newtonian physics don’t apply where he’s taking us. Yep, truly, he says that.

And he is so freaking believable I just couldn’t help but get sucked in. Seriously … the man has all these statistics and pictures and diagrams and shit like that. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s something in it. Did I just say that out loud … LOL. Pack your tin-foil hat is all I’m sayin.

Anyway, it’s so much weird stuff so well delivered… you really have to sift through it. Soooo many dates and numbers. 1984 keeps popping up and 42 and 1359. You would probably love that but I was just worried about some of the people he was talking about … freaky … not to mention poor old Ricochet the cat.

You really have to anchor yourself in the here and now and find a way to be alert despite the quite immersive, seductive, logically illogical, ‘alternative fact’ nature of it all. That Caleb guy is a real storyteller and you get drawn into this bloody web of um ..sort of … I dunno. You know!!

Especially in some of those back streets where the pavement needs work . You could fall into some of those cracks and disappear for ever. Which reminds me. Don’t take Aunt Maude with you. There is a lot of walking and it’s fast and that guy has really long legs. Remember that time she wandered off, got lost and we had to put up signs on the telephone poles … we don’t want that again do we?

Anyway David, I’m off to bed. Exclusion Zone: A Walking Tour is happening again on Friday and Saturday at 6:45, heaven only knows why they let this crackpot loose. But go and have a look and let me know what you think.

Judith